Federal Motor Transport Authority issues figures for 2015
The number of classic cars in Germany rose again last year. On January 1, 2016, 343,958 passenger cars were registered with “H plates” (H signifying “historic”), i.e. 10.7 percent more than last year. The total number of all classic motor vehicles with H plates – not only passenger cars but also commercial vehicles, truck tractors and motorcycles – is around 388,000. VDA President Matthias Wissmann commented, “The H number plates are the defining feature of a genuine classic vehicle. Since they were introduced, they have greatly encouraged more and more people to make an effort to preserve historic vehicles. The VDA works to ensure that classic cars with H plates continue to enjoy protection as part of our technical cultural heritage so they can still run on our roads without any problem in the future.”
The ranking of classic vehicles is still headed by the VW Beetle: 32,750 of them now have H registration plates, which is a rise of nearly 7 percent. The Mercedes-Benz W 123 is again clearly in second place, with 17,534 vehicles. The Mercedes-Benz SL R107 has also maintained its position, and at 11,325 vehicles it is the third most common classic car in Germany. The strongest growth was recorded by the Volkswagen Golf adding 35 percent to reach a total of 4,519 vehicles. Alongside the Golf another early volume model is also getting more and more popular, namely the Opel Kadett – there are now 4,280 of them with H plates on the roads. There is also an East German car legend with quite a few fans: in 2015 there were 2,032 Trabants bearing H registrations. However, the “Trabi” only manages 21st place in the ranking. “The volume models of the 1970s and 1980s are gaining in cult status and recognition as real classic cars. The generally have younger owners, who look after their vehicles and thus preserve an important piece of more recent everyday automotive history,” Wissmann said.
But not all vehicles over 30 years old qualify as classic cars. For instance, currently only just about 28 percent of Golfs registered, which are more than 30 years old, have H number plates. The figure for the Kadett is only a good 36 percent, and for the VW Bus it is around 54 percent. There may be several reasons why some vehicles over 30 years old do not bear an H registration. For example, many owners of classic vehicles choose not to have H plates for tax reasons. Classic cars with H plates are subject to a standard tax of 191 euros, which means that vehicles with engines smaller than 800 cc incur less tax if they are registered normally. So only 13.1 percent of all the 13,436 Trabis over 30 years old actually have classic car status as conferred by the special plates.
In addition, under the legislation H plates can be issued only for vehicles that are in perfect working order and in their original condition, and many old vehicles used on a day-to-day basis do not satisfy these criteria. Most genuine classic-car-lovers therefore use their automotive treasures only during their leisure time and avoid rush hours.